Afghanistan: challenges for UK policy

Even prior to the Taliban’s takeover, Afghanistan suffered from high levels of poverty and corruption and significant human rights issues. It was also heavily dependent on foreign aid. Many of these challenges have been exacerbated by the change of regime. This briefing summarises the House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee’s report into UK policy towards Afghanistan and the Government’s response. It also considers recent developments and the potential future direction of UK policy.

Afghanistan: challenges for UK policy

Coronavirus: business loans and the public finances

The Government has provided over £200 billion of loans, guarantees and insurance cover to private sector firms during the coronavirus pandemic. These affect government borrowing and debt in different ways, depending on the design of the schemes. This article explores how each scheme is treated in the public finances and how much they are expected to cost.

Coronavirus: business loans and the public finances
  • In Focus

    Trade and institutional frameworks after Brexit

    What institutions and arrangements will govern the UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU? And what will be the implications of Brexit for UK-EU trade in services and trade in goods? This article summarises the findings of three reports from a House of Lords committee that addressed these questions, as well as the Government’s responses. The House of Lords is due to debate the reports on 6 December 2021.

  • In Focus

    Quantitative easing

    Quantitative easing (QE) is a form of monetary policy first used in the UK during the financial crisis. In July 2021, the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee published a report on the policy. It concluded that QE had succeeded in stabilising the economy in crisis conditions, but that it remains poorly understood and has led to perceptions that the Bank of England has become politicised.

  • In Focus

    Unpaid taxes: the ‘tax gap’

    HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) produces estimates of the tax gap—that is, tax revenue HMRC should receive but does not. Its most recent estimate is £35 billion, or approximately 5% of total tax liabilities, for 2019/20. As a percentage of total taxes, the gap has been trending downwards in recent years. The Government’s tax strategy includes measures to reduce it further. However, some commentators have argued these need more careful consideration.

  • In Focus

    Autumn budget and spending review

    The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, delivered the second budget of the year on 27 October 2021. It set out the Government’s plans to “build back better”. He also announced the results of a spending review, setting departmental spending totals for 2022/23 to 2024/25. Overall spending will increase, with a large proportion of the increase going to the NHS. The Office for Budget Responsibility also published its latest forecasts for the economy and the public finances. They showed improvements from its previous, March 2021, forecasts.

  • In Focus

    Overseas aid: the 0.7% target

    Between 2013 and 2020, the UK met an international target to spend 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on overseas aid. A 2015 act enshrined this in legislation. In response to the economic impact of coronavirus, the Government has said that aid spending will temporarily reduce to 0.5% of GNI from 2021. Some commentators have argued this requires further primary legislation. The Government has announced the tests that must be met to restore spending to 0.7%.

  • In Focus

    Cadet forces: funding and social impact

    The cadet forces are voluntary youth organisations that are based on the traditions of the armed forces but are not part of them. The Government says they offer “challenging and enjoyable activities”. They receive some government funding. Independent analysis suggests that they provide benefits both for participants and wider society. An ongoing government scheme aims to increase the number of cadet units in state schools.

  • In Focus

    Devolution and government relations

    Two reports published in March 2021 concern UK ‘intergovernmental relations’ (IGR), the mechanisms through which the UK and devolved governments interact. First, the Dunlop Review made recommendations on how the UK Government should restructure to enhance its capabilities on matters affecting the union. Second, an update on a review of IGR being undertaken jointly by the four governments described progress in negotiations. The reports are being debated together on 1 July 2021.